Clear your calendar and pack your bags, it’s vacation time!
After the year we’ve had, it must be about time to catch up on a well needed holiday, and what better place to explore than our own backyard. New South Wales is full of gorgeous destinations, no matter what type of holidaymaker you are. From beachside serenity to outback adventures, there is something that will please everyone while steering you away from the beaten track.
Rather than heading to Katoomba to get your Blue Mountains fix, follow the historic Bells Line of Road to Bilpin. Only 90-kilometres west from Sydney, this small town is also known as the ‘Land of the Mountain Apple’ and has an array of attractions that you can sink your teeth into. Teeming with orchards and produce stalls, Bilpin is easily described as a foodie’s paradise. Stop by the Bilpin Fruit Bowl to pick your own fruit or try a slice of fresh apple pie straight from the oven. Quench your thirst at either Hillbilly Cider or Bilpin Cider before you set off on an afternoon spree to stock up your fridge and pantry with local goodies.
There are plenty of cafes and restaurants with sweeping mountain views as well as lookouts and picnic areas along Bells Line of Road to stop and take it all in. Head towards Mount Tomah and meander through the Blue Mountains Botanical Gardens before settling in for the night at a cosy bed and breakfast accommodation.
In the far western corner of New South Wales lies what looks to be a relatively nondescript part of the outback but if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find White Cliffs’ true beauty. This remote town is home to Australia’s oldest commercial opal field and is one of the only places in the world where white opal and the rare ‘Pineapple Opal’ can be found. Take a look at the local galleries and shops around the township including Fossicker’s Den, Aussie Southern Cross Opal, Red Earth Gallery or Linda George Jewellery and pick up some of these Australian-grown crown jewels to take home with you.
Once you arrive in White Cliffs, you may notice a striking lack of buildings which is due to the fact that most of them – including houses and accommodation – have been built underground to escape the scorching outback heat so be prepared for a unique, out-of-the-box experience. Other activities include underground mine tours, exploring the Paroo-Darling National Park or visiting Australia’s first solar power station.
If heritage, old-money estates and gourmet dining are more to your liking, you might want to pay the town of Bowral a visit. Located 90-minutes south of the state’s capital, Bowral was once a summer vacation hotspot for the 19th century gentry of Sydney; remnants of which are still on display throughout the town including numerous manor houses that have been converted into elegantly appointed accommodation. Despite the tempting and luxurious lodgings, you won’t want to stay put inside as there are plenty of wineries, cafes and restaurants to visit such as the highly acclaimed Onesta Cucina.
Those who are cricket fans may know that Bowral was the birthplace of iconic Australian batsman, Donald Bradman, and so the Bradman Museum and Cricket Hall of Fame should be at the top of your must-see list. For the floral enthusiasts, wander through Corbett Gardens, especially during the Tulip Time Festival, to see an array of colourful blooms in all their glory.
Country charm and a flourishing food and wine scene make Mudgee the perfect destination for your next trip away from the hustle and bustle of suburbia. Set amongst mountains and rolling hills in the Cudgegong River Valley, this town in the Central Tablelands is surrounded by an array of fertile farmland and wineries that produce some exquisite offerings. Mudgee is home to over 35 wineries, and you can sample this region’s pride and joy at one of the many cellar doors including Gooree Park Wines, Robert Oatley, Lowe Wines, Logan Wines or Vinifera. Find the perfect pairing to your new favourite drop at restaurants such as Pipeclay Pumphouse, The Zin House or The Wineglass. After indulging your tastebuds, head on over to the Mudgee Observatory and gaze up at the dazzling night sky through a telescope or via the planetarium. With all the glorious produce Mudgee has to offer, make sure to arrive there on an empty stomach!
Settle in for a relaxing, tranquil stay along the bank of Bellinger River at Bellingen in New South Wales’ mid-north Coast. This picturesque town’s main drawcard is its lush riverside scenery and World Heritage-listed rainforest. Go for a dip in the clean, crisp water at one of the many swimming holes dotted around the area or, if you’d prefer to explore the rivers and wildlife while remaining (mostly) dry, try a canoe tour with Bellingen Canoe Adventures. Go a little further afield to take in the nearby Dorrigo National Park, Cathedral Rock National Park or another enchanting waterhole, the Never Never River. Back in town, there are plenty of options for cafe hopping and a vibrant market scene showcasing the best of the local artisans and farmers around the area. The dreamy, peaceful surrounds of Bellingen offer the perfect setting for a bit of well needed R&R.
South West Rocks
If a coastal escape is on your agenda, look no further than South West Rocks. Located on the mouth of the Macleay River, this breezy seaside town is known for its diving spots, Norfolk pines and laid-back atmosphere. Fish Rock Cave is renowned as one of the world’s best cave diving sites and also happens to be a breeding ground for rare grey nurse sharks. If scuba diving isn’t your cup of tea, try snorkelling or stand-up paddle boarding in the calm waters of Back Creek. Head to the popular Horseshoe Bay, a small sheltered beach close to the town centre, for some great surf breaks, or get away from the crowds at Front Beach or the secluded Gap Beach which is only accessible by 4WD. Soak up the town’s history by visiting the Trial Bay Gaol which sits atop cliffs overlooking the ocean. Halfway between Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie, South West Rocks is an excellent choice for anyone wanting a calm, relaxing seaside holiday.
Planning a trip to the Northern Rivers but want to avoid the tourist trap of Byron Bay? Drive 15 minutes inland to the Byron Hinterland town of Bangalow, a quaint rural spot teeming with gourmet treats and small boutiques nestled within gorgeous federation buildings. Despite ultimately being a one-street town, Bangalow has many delights to explore including cafes and eateries such as Butcher Baker, Choux Choux Patisserie, Woods, One Green Acre and The Italian Diner.
There are also plenty of window-shopping opportunities with local artisans and makers setting up shop in the Bangalow township including stores like Johansen Fashion, Our Corner Store, Island Luxe, The Flower Bar, and Wax Jambu Emporium. If you want to try and keep some money in your pocket, take in the natural surrounds at Bangalow Parklands or drive 30 minutes further inland to the spectacular Minyon Falls in the Nightcap National Park.
Another outback mining town, Lightning Ridge is steeped in history and is sure to be a fantastic holiday experience for those looking for something a bit more unique. Lightning Ridge is home to the rare black opal which you can admire in many stores and boutiques around town such as the Opal Bin or Lost Sea Opals. Watch as the raw gemstones are polished and transformed into shimmering delights or walk through a working opal mine on a guided tour at The Big Opal.
Due to its location in the Great Artesian Basin, Lightning Ridge is also well known for its artesian bore baths. These naturally heated springs maintain a temperature of around 40-50 degrees celsius and are the perfect remedy after a long day of exploring the mines. When it comes to the quirky and peculiar, the Chambers of the Black Hand have you covered with underground sandstone walls and pillars decorated with unusual carvings and paintings of figures, animals and characters, all thanks to artist Ron Canlin.
One for the lovers of the silver screen, Silverton should be high on your bucket list. Located in between Broken Hill and the South Australian border, this dusty outback town has been the backdrop of many iconic Australian films including Mad Max 2, Razorback, and Priscilla Queen of the Desert. For a more in depth look at the influence of such movies on this rural town, pay a visit to the Mad Max Museum with an array of props, photographs and memorabilia from the movie on display.
Silverton was once a flourishing silver mining town and you can soak up its heritage by strolling past the colonial style buildings or taking a guided tour of the Silverton Gaol Museum or the Historic Daydream Mine. To get a taste of how truly remote this area of New South Wales is, walk to the top of the lookout just outside the town and see the Mundi Mundi Plains stretch out before you.
This harbour town along New South Wales’ southern coastline is another fantastic option for a seaside getaway. Bermagui is located in the Sapphire Coast region and is well known for its deep sea game fishing due to its geographical proximity to the continental shelf just 20-kilometres offshore. Whether you want to cast a line, explore below the water or stay dry in a kayak, there are numerous activities to partake in through local tours. Taste fresh seafood from the co-op at Bermagui Fishermen’s Wharf, one of the state’s largest seafood suppliers, or sample some other local produce at the region’s nearby vineyards, Mimosa Wines or Rusty Fig Wines.
With many natural wonders to explore, including Wallaga Lake’s Horse Head Rock and Camel Rock or the seaside and the Mimosa Rocks National Park, you’re truly spoilt for choice when it comes to day trip adventures. You could also enjoy a lovely trip to Montague Island where you can find lots of wildlife including penguins and seals if you’re lucky! Make it a day trip or even stay overnight in the Montague Island Head Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottage for a unique accommodation option.
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We acknowledge the traditional owners of country throughout Australia and recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and culture. We pay our respects to their elders past, present and emerging.